In Frankenstein, how does the creature react when he sees Victor? Which character invites more sympathy, Victor or the creature?

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lrswank | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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The first interaction between the creature and Victor occurs a little while after Victor's creation comes to life for the first time.  Once the creature opens his eyes, Victor retires to his bed chamber because he is repulsed by him.  At some point later in the night, as reported by Victor in his narrative of what occurred, 

"I beheld the wretch -- the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed down stairs."

It's important to note that this encounter is from Victor's perspective, so when you ask, "How does the creature react...," you have to keep in mind that this reaction is reported through the lens of Victor's experience. We know he is already repulsed by his creature.  Objectively, the creature reacts as one who is created--one who has recently come to life--would react: with a sense of wonder about how he came to be.  

He physically looks for and toward his creator (or, even if he does not know that Victor is his creator, at least for someone to rely on for information and comfort): "his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me."

The creature tries to speak: "His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds." However, the creature cannot talk because he has not yet learned how. (We find this out later--he learns language from the cottagers.)   

Lastly, "a grin wrinkled [the creature's] cheeks" and "one hand was stretched out." Victor thinks this gesture is an attempt to restrain him, but is it really? Wouldn't it be more plausible that these acts are just another attempt to connect with the first person the creature has ever seen? 

The second part of your question is really a matter of personal opinion.  The answer also depends upon whether or not you have finished the novel. This interaction occurs in chapter 5, so there is much more story to tell on both sides, by both Victor and the creature.

In my opinion, the creature invites more sympathy for two reasons.

  1. By the very nature of his existence, the creature was created, just like you and I were.  He did not ask for his life; he just becomes himself--he commences to exist. Therefore, when he becomes conscious of his existence and seeks to connect with Victor, he is due some compassion, which he obviously does not receive.
  2. As an extension to the first reason, Victor deserves no sympathy because he is the one who takes up the task of creator; unlike the creature, he does choose his roll. Upon achieving it, he abandons the responsibilities of that role. Therefore, he deserves no sympathy, for as our enotes summary of chapter 5 states, when

"the creature tries to communicate with him, ... Victor runs away, leaving the creature hopelessly alone, stranded in a confusing, hostile environment."

In my book, that sort of behavior invites no sympathy at all. 

 

 

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